In 1999, at the request of the previous owners (her uncles), Catherine O’Grady and husband Jim Powers embraced the opportunity to take over Glen Keen Farm.
Growing up at Glen Keen, Catherine experienced the different aspects of farming throughout her childhood, making it easier to accept the responsibility of taking on the ownership role. However, they quickly realized the declining economic value that sheep farming had; a viable solution to sustain the family farm was essential. As a child, Catherine recalled tourists stopping by Glen Keen to take photos and talk with her dad and uncle. Not only did they want to talk, they wanted to learn how Glen Keen Farm was run. These memories were Catherine’s inspiration; A visitor attraction center at Glen Keen Farm, offering guests an authentic Irish experience.
Located in County Mayo, along the shores of Killary Harbour and along the Wild Atlantic Way, Glen Keen Farm hosts a visitor center and allows guests to experience the workings of a typical Irish sheep farm – sheepdogs and all. The visitor centre offers a Café, Craft shop, and demonstration areas for the visitors to enjoy watching the sheepdog doing their job; herding the sheep. Guests are also provided with a detailed briefing of the breed of Sheep farmed at Glen Keen.
A lesson in Irish History awaits
Additionally, guests can learn about traditional Turf cutting, and experience first hand an historical walk taking in Bronze age sites; here Ringforts, Cluster buildings dating back to the 1600s (when occupied as Tenant Farm houses), and ancient Cilin burial grounds are on display. The landscape remains untouched, allowing guests to embrace and interpret their surroundings for themselves. In addition, Glen Keen Farm also offers guests private hikes of the farm; now a special area of conservation as designated by the European Union.
Having a background in Business Studies, Food Safety, and a Diploma in Tour Guiding, Catherine is well informed of how to best cater to Glen Keen’s target market.
About 70% of Glen Keen visitors are from the US, and the remainder are from Germany, Canada, Ireland, and China. Glen Keen Farm reaches other guests by attending International Trade events and maximizing their reach on social media platforms. In the future, they are hoping to grow their business by:
- Attracting more bus tours
- Expand the numbers in the private visitor market
- Open an online store
- Build a database of existing customers
- Develop their communications via a newsletter
When asked how the EMPOWER Programme helped with the process of starting a company, Catherine responded:
“The EMPOWER Growth Programme was of tremendous help to me in growing our business and increasing awareness of our visitor attraction. Empower provided me with access to experts in in every field of business; Moreover, Empower facilitated many mentoring sessions for me which encouraged a major boost to my business operation. Empower also influenced Jim and I on the importance of setting goals and direction; to always know ‘How are we going to get there’.
I am presently setting goals and objectives for the business and for myself personally; this is hugely important. I am grateful and feel fortunate that I was accepted on to the Empower Programme; it has taught me a lot and has provided me with a network of other entrepreneurs I can call on for support. Just knowing there is a circle of like minded people that are on this journey, is so important; being an Entrepreneur can sometimes be a very lonely route to navigate.”
Catherine and Jim- long may your success continue!
This project is co-funded by the Irish Government and the European Social Fund as part of the Programme for Employability, Inclusion and Learning 2014-2020.